Review Roundup: AMID FALLING WALLS at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

The groundbreaking new musical portrays the indomitable Jewish spirit during the Holocaust through Yiddish song.

By: Nov. 28, 2023
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Read reviews for National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene's Amid Falling Walls!

Witness the resilience and hope that prevailed amid unimaginable darkness. Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent) is a groundbreaking musical, portraying the indomitable Jewish spirit during the Holocaust through Yiddish song.

Curated and arranged by Zalmen Mlotek, with a compelling libretto by Avram Mlotek, and directed by Motl Didner, this Off-Broadway production delves into the songs created and performed in ghettos, cabarets, partisan encampments, concentration camps, and clandestine theaters.

The musical weaves in first-hand testimony of Holocaust survivors through their poetry and music, preserving their authentic voices. Despite the tragic loss of many of the young creators, their songs come alive in this unprecedented Off-Broadway theatrical production. It stands as a tribute, narrating the true story of resistance and hope through the words and melodies of those who endured those harrowing times.

A substantial portion of the material we witness today is due to the tireless efforts of Shmerke Kaczerginski, a poet, partisan, and a member of the famed YIVO Paper Brigade. He dedicated years of his life post-war to collect the songs of those who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust.

The phrase “Tsvishn Falndike Vent” is a fragment of the “Partisan Hymn,” a poignant song written in 1943 in the Vilna Ghetto. Its powerful lyrics quickly spread through the forests, ghettos, and camps, becoming a rallying cry for many.

Many of the songs featured in Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent) were carefully curated by Yosl Mlotek, who served as the education director at the Jewish cultural organization, The Workers Circle, and Chana Mlotek, an ethnomusicologist and folklorist who served as the longstanding music archivist for The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Laura Collins- Hughes, The New York Times: Curated by Avram Mlotek, who wrote the libretto, and his father, Zalmen Mlotek, who is the show’s music director and arranger as well as the company’s artistic director, “Amid Falling Walls” sounds gorgeous. Its 28 musical numbers — folk music and cabaret, elegies and anthems — are played by a nine-piece orchestra tucked away upstage. And the show has an ace in its fine eight-person ensemble: Steven Skybell, who starred as Tevye in the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s excellent Yiddish-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The 80-minute revue encapsulates hope, resistance, bigotry, desperation, love, grief, tragedy, joy, and pride. Steven Skybell’s Mordkhe relates: “Humanity’s most true history is written only in blood. How Jews died the entire world already knows. But how Jews resisted against and fought the murderers, we know far, far less...”

Samuel L. Leiter, Theater Pizzazz: It’s a pleasure to report that, with Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent), the venerable National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene yet again demonstrates why it remains one of New York’s most treasured theatrical resources. This captivating show, nearly all of it in Yiddish, will have you wiping away tears with one hand and clapping your knee with the other, even if you don’t know a brokhe from a bris. 

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: “Mues” (“Money”), performed  by an aptly sassy Daniella Rabbani, is one of the twenty-eight fascinating musical numbers in “Amid Falling Walls,” a simultaneously delightful and devastating musical revue by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, composed of songs and poems created by Jews during the Holocaust.  


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